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Kenyan stars chase glory in China meet

ATHLETICS By IAAF | January 5th 2019
[PHOTO: COURTESY]

Kenya’a Eliud Kiptanui and Peter Kimeli will be lining up at the 17th edition of Xiamen Marathon in China tomorrow.

The Kenyan duo will be seeking to dethrone reigning champion Dejene Debela of Ethiopia in the first IAAF Gold Label road race of 2019.

Kiptanui, the 2010 Prague Marathon champion is the fastest man in the field. He clocked a PB of 2:05:21 to finish second at the 2015 Berlin Marathon.

Last year, the 29-year-old produced a season’s best of 2:08:20 to finish fifth in Paris.

Peter Kimeli, 28, who registered his PB of 2:05:38 to win the 2013 Paris Marathon and came close to that mark when finishing third at the Daegu Marathon in 2:06:49 last April, the second fastest time of his career, will be another to watch.

The leader of the Ethiopian arsenal - Debela, 23, whose personal best of 2:07:10 was set in 2017 when he came in fourth at the Eindhoven Marathon, led an Ethiopian top-three finish last year in Xiamen where he pulled away in the final kilometre to take his first marathon title in 2:11:22.

Because of the heavy rain that dogged him from almost gun to finish, Debele’s winning mark in the southern Chinese city was the slowest in 11 years, more than five minutes shy of the 2:06:19 course record set by Kenya’s Moses Mosop in 2015, and which has stood as China’s all-comers’ record since then.

This time Debela will be running in better conditions as the forecast calls for a cloudy day with temperature ranging from 14-18 C.

But his title defence will not be easy as he faces a strong field that includes three sub-2:06 runners.

Bazu Worku, 28, is the second fastest entrant with his career best of 2:05:25 dating back to 2010.

The experienced Ethiopian has remained in good form in recent years, collecting his third Houston Marathon title in 2:08:30 12 months ago. It will be Worku’s first race in China since his marathon debut in 2009.

In the women’s field, Janet Jelagat Rono, the 2011 Hong Kong Marathon, 2013 Cologne Marathon and 2014 Ljubljana Marathon champion is the biggest hope in ending a nine-year Ethiopian women winning streak in Xiamen.

The 30-year-old achieved her lifetime best of 2:26:03 at the Tokyo Marathon back in 2014 and clocked 2:28:01 last April to take the top honours in Daegu, which was the sixth marathon title of her career following victories in Ljubljana, Cologne, Hong Kong, Panama City and Mazatlan.

Rono will be facing Shasho Insermu of Ethiopia — a 25-year-old runner who trimmed more than six and a half minutes off her PB to finish second in Amsterdam in 2:23:28 three months ago.

Fantu Jimma, also from Ethiopia will be chasing her first marathon win in Chinese race.

Jimma, 31, clocked a PB of 2:26:14 in Dubai four years ago and came close in 2016 after finishing third in Xiamen in 2:26:53, but she hasn’t managed to break the 2:30 barrier since then.

Her compatriot Tsehay Desalegn is also a serious contender. The 27-year-old has vast experience competing in China including winning the title in Danzhou and Lanzhou.

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